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Debate on House water bill moves to Senate

Environmental groups continued Wednesday to criticize a House water bill in advance of a Senate committee workshop while an industry group said the legislation offers a statewide approach to Florida’s water needs.

HB 7003 recognizes the Central Florida Water Initiative in state law while eliminating a South Florida Water Management District farm permitting program for Lake Okeechobee in favor of agricultural “best management practices.” It requires the setting of minimum flows for springs simultaneously with setting recovery goals, which environmentalists say will delay action.

“The House water bill takes the teeth out of controls on water use that are supposed to prevent springs from running dry and lakes from disappearing,” David Guest of Earthjustice said Wednesday. “Reform is desperately needed and the House bill hands the problem over to committees of special interests that will develop unenforceable management plans.”

Audubon Florida is asking its supporters to tell senators to table what they’re calling a “dirty water bill” and instead support SB 918 by Sen. Charlie Dean, a Republican from Inverness. He’s chairman of the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, which will hold the workshop on HB 7003 beginning at 4 p.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida said AIF’s Florida H2O Coalition hopes the Senate supports the comprehensive approach taken by the House.

“We appreciate that the Senate is giving water policy the debate it deserves,” Bevis said. “But there’s no debating that without a new path forward, we are facing a shortage of 1.3 billion gallons of water per day by 2030. Additionally, Florida faces a series of water challenges throughout the state, not just springs, and we need a bill that addresses water statewide.”

Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee. 

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